One of the biggest frustration points among state chief information officers nationwide, said Wyoming CIO Flint Waters, is trying to accomplish a modernization effort without adequate executive support.
That’s not the case in Waters’ home state.
Earlier this month, Governor Matt Mead led a team that included Waters, the state senator majority and minority leaders and his deputy chief of staff, on a trip to Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters to learn the latest in new technology from the search giant and how the state can best benefit.
“If your governor is not bought in than it’s incredibly difficult to do the things you want to do,” said Waters, Wyoming’s CIO since 2011. “There has to be a need to buy in to tomorrow’s tech and that’s where Wyoming stands above and beyond.”
Waters said the state government, which is almost always a state’s leading information technology purchaser, needs to be the anchor tenant for cutting edge technologies. That gives the large technology providers more incentive to bring those same technologies, like broadband for example, to the rest of the state.
That’s important in a place like Wyoming, which features the second least-dense population and the smallest total number of residents.
“Part of what we do is not about just building a strong state technology infrastructure, but building out for our community as well,” Waters said. “It does us no good if we have a great connection within the government, but the rest of the state falls behind.”
When it comes to technology, Waters has been looking at products and services that change the way state employees work. Last year, the state became the first in the nation to deploy Google Apps for Government with its robust set of collaboration technologies tied in with email.
That was just one step in Waters effort “to get tech out of the way.” What he wants is employees to reinvent their workflow with the new technology, instead of trying to figure out how to do things the old way, but on a new system. He wants them, instead, to think about what is the ideal way to work if technology was not an issue.
He points to the creation of documents as an example. Unlike the old days of drafting a document and emailing it around for comment, but using tools like Google+ hangouts where multiple people can change a document on the fly.
“We shouldn’t be held to processes that were created when we were using floppy disks,” said Waters, who came to the state government after serving as the chief technology officer for the forty-nine Internet Crime Against Children task forces and was the chief security officer for TLO from 2008 through 2010.
Waters also worked for the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. It was during his tenure there, that he developed software for use in identifying predators that targeted children resulting in the rescue of hundreds of children from their abusers. That software has been used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the world. He has won awards for his innovative technologies from the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Other big projects Waters is working on that will help change the way Wyoming work:
The state runs its own hybrid cloud for the storage of sensitive data, like that from the law enforcement and healthcare communities, but otherwise is using commercially-available clouds for tier 1 and tier 5 storage and the hosting of a number of applications.
“Just because 10 percent of your work has the utmost security doesn’t mean all of it has to have the same mindset and be protected in the same way,” Waters said.
The state is preparing an Ipv6 rollout for all its communications, including the broadband service it provides to the state’s education system. The goal is to create uniformity among the communications so students can bring their own devices and have that configured to work on the network.
That project rolls into a “student for life” plan where Waters wants to get some continuity in the digital presence of students that can follow them for their academic career. Still in the planning stages, the program would build out the education system’s backbone technology infrastructure to provide students with digital services that will enhance their educational experience.
Waters wants employees to work away from the desktop as much as possible, and the state has a number of programs already underway. He said Wyoming’s system is built for users to either come in two ways: either through a virtual private network, connecting through the government’s campus network, or the standard Internet.
“I want it so everything I do is accessible from any device I carry,” he said.